British Psychological Society "out of step" with public opinion over government cuts
May 30, 2011
by Angela Hussain
Psychologists have accused the British Psychological Society (BPS), of being ?out of step? with public opinion over its failure to campaign against coalition government cuts.
Ninety-nine psychologists have signed a letter to the membership magazine of the BPS, which represents chartered psychologists in the UK, claiming the BPS is afraid of ?putting its head above the parapet?.
In particular, the BPS is criticised for not making any public comment following the sacking in February of psychologist and governent adviser David Richards after he questioned funding mechanisms for the IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) initiative, which is supported and promoted by the BPS.
The letter's signatories said there were many activities the BPS could participate in. These included reporting the damaging effects of cuts affecting NHS services, joining the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing in campaigning against "creeping marketisation" of the NHS, and examining the social and psychological impact of increased higher education tuition fees.
Banner at a march against government cuts.
Photo by: Aayesha Mulla
The letter, drafted by David Harper, a reader in clinical psychology at the University of East London, read: ?To those who would say that the Society's charitable status prevents it from engaging in political debate, we note that the Charity Commissioners actively promote public debate by charities on issues where they have expertise so long as they do not support a particular political party line.?
The letter to The Psychologist, published by the British Psychological Society, in full:
'Experts of all kinds sound off in private about the impact of the coalition's cuts - but timidly zip their lips in public' ran a Guardian headline accompanying Polly Toynbee's article on 1 October last year.
As the public sector cuts deepen and we see de facto privatisation of the NHS and higher education sectors, the effects will be wide-ranging and profound.
Yet we wait in vain for a thorough discussion of these issues in 'The Psychologist', or reports of Society representatives raising concerns about these developments. Once again the Society seems out of step with public feeling: March, for example saw nearly half a million people marching in opposition to these cuts.
There are many things the Society could be doing. It could report the effects of the cuts that are directly affecting NHS services. It could join the BMA, the RCN and campaign against the creeping marketization of the NHS. It could contrast the launch of the Big Society initiative with the cuts in support for charities as a result of local authority cuts. It could examine the social and psychological impact of increased tuition fees - likely to reduce social mobility even further. It could open up debate of the continuation of
neo-liberal policy frameworks that have already failed in the financial sector. It could challenge the Coalition's single narrative that public debt has been caused by profligate public spending.
All these issues are of immediate interest to psychologists. Psychological processes are involved in Government attempts to make the cuts appear reasonable, acceptable and inevitable. The cuts will deeply affect the lives, careers and working practices of many psychologists. And most of all, they will have a profoundly damaging impact upon many who use their services.
To those who would say that the Society's charitable status prevents it from engaging in political debate, we note that the Charity Commissioners actively promote public debate by charities on issues where they have expertise so long as they do not support a particular political party line.
Perhaps the Society is afraid of putting its head above the parapet - we are aware of no public comment by the Society following the reported sacking by Andrew Lansley of David Richards - adviser to the IAPT initiative which was much promoted by Society representatives. He had had the temerity to ask searching questions about the funding of IAPT
The Society and, indeed its members, needs to put pressure on the government to change its course before irreversible damage is done to the public sector and to society. If it does not do so, it will be failing its members in spectacular fashion. As another Toynbee headline put it 'those who know disaster looms mustn't stay quiet'
University of East London
Paul de Mornay Davies
Daniela Fernandez Catherall
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